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Critic: Leaks bill unconstitutional

Critic: Leaks bill unconstitutional
Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- A bill approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee limiting intelligence officials' interactions with reporters raises constitutional issues, critics said.

The legislation would reduce the number of people at each intelligence agency who would be allowed to speak to reporters on background information on condition of anonymity, The New York Times reported Thursday. It would also require notice to be made to the Senate and House intelligence committees of authorized release of intelligence information and would allow the government to strip the pensions of any intelligence officer who illegally discloses classified information.

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The introduction of the legislation coincides with a criminal investigation into the White House, the Pentagon, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency for intelligence leaks that formed the basis for recent news stories on highly sensitive intelligence operations.

They include stories in The New York Times on cyberattacks on Iran and on President Barack Obama's "kill list" for drone attacks.

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The proposed bill has received no public support from current intelligence officials and has been criticized by civil liberties groups, the Times reported.

"Everybody in the intelligence world agrees that we have never seen so many high-level leaks," said Mark M. Lowenthal, a former assistant director of the CIA. "But this is the wrong solution."

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Prohibiting official background interviews could lead reporters to seek out unofficial sources, leading to more uncontrolled disclosures, the Times reported.

W. George Jameson, a lawyer who had a 30-year career in the CIA said the bill could be unconstitutional on separation-of-power grounds.

"It's the legislative branch telling the executive branch how to deal with executive-branch classified information," he said.

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